French artist Xavier Roux created a 59 by 3 foot bug

By Sylvain Cypel, Correspondent in New York/ February 2010 / Original Article : non available on line /

Of course there is still a lot of work, but the whole thing is a miracle. The art center called The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn, New York, is exhibiting a 59’ long by 13’ high ant wearing a boater hat. “Why not?” asked Robert Desnos in his 1942 poem “The Ant” (“a 59’ long ant with a hat on its head, that doesn’t exist…”). French artist Xavier Roux created its body and gave it a soul. Its skeleton and legs made from a ton and a half of steel anchor four ultra-light polyurethane and nylon balloons, made to measure by a company that usually works for very demanding clients: the US army, or the operators of geostationary platforms… As if oppressed by the immensity of the surrounding space, the work spreads a mixture of innocent humor and monumental seriousness.

Xavier Roux says he has been “dreaming” it since he was 6. “The Ant is the first poem I learned”. Much later, when he found out about Desnos’ activity in the French Résistance, of his deportation to Buchenwald in 1944 in a 59’ sealed railway car, of his death from typhus in the Terezin camp, his attraction became an obsession.
Xavier Roux offered his ant to Lucien Zayan who replied “let’s do it” without any hesitation and who is now exhibiting it in his art center. Zayan arrived in the US in 2009. He had spent 10 years with Stéphane Lissner at the Aix-en-Provence Lyric Art Festival. He is the typical “mercurial” type as described by Yuri Slezkine in his recently published “Jewish Century” (La Découverte 2009). “My mother always told me: Lucien, don’t own anything, everything can always be taken away from you”. Like in a fairy tale, he transformed the Invisible Dog’s rubble into a unique space that left the landlord impressed: 7545 square feet on 3 levels – 2296 square feet on the ground floor with a 15’ ceiling for exhibitions and other events; the rest is subdivided into artist studios.  Roux is quite unconventional himself. Having graduated from the Haute Ecole de Commerce, he started with a big US headhunting company in 1989 with Wall Street as his objective. “On my 10,000th day (at age 27 years and 3 months), I knew this life wasn’t for me”. He dropped it all in 1997. A year later he was exhibiting his “see through paintings”.

In 2008, he participated in the exhibition of the Praxis group “Dreams and Possibilities” at the Whitney Museum. Before that he launched the Artist Studio Project with the Yahoo! research lab at UCLA Berkeley.
As for The Ant, they admit that Zayan’s enthusiasm and Roux’s talent would not have been enough “without Juan”. Juan Alfaro built Louise Bourgeois’ Spider for the Guggenheim museum. Zayan says he’s an “extraordinary craftsman. Xavier imagined the structure, Juan gave it life after he chanced upon the Invisible Dog when looking for a large space for his wedding. I swear it’s true”. Others supported the project. Amongst them Jacques Fraenkel who is Robert Desnos’ and Florence Delay’s executor. Xavier Roux had previously offered his Ant to the Paris City Hall in 2005 for the 60th anniversary of the war camps’ liberation. “We first had to have it exhibited in New York to show them it was possible. Now we’re talking about taking it to France”.